On Feb. 21, The American Legion will host its first Veterans Benefits Claims Fair at the Washington Hilton Hotel from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., where Legion accredited service officers will provide free assistance in filling out paperwork and answering questions about benefits eligibility. Download the Veterans Benefits Claims Fair flyer here .
Veterans should bring documents to support their claim, including their DD Form 214, dependent information, service and private medical records, and direct-deposit banking information.
"We're inviting veterans from Washington, D.C., and the surrounding areas, to come in and have an opportunity to work with our department service officers so we can put together fully developed claims and submit them to the VA," said Lori Perkio, assistant director of the Legion's Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation (VA&R) Division. "If we submit fully developed claims that thoroughly document health conditions, then VA doesn't have to go out and gather that information, which could cut down on the claims processing time by up to 120 days."
In 2012, VA created an "express lane" for fully developed claims to be fast-tracked for completion.
"If veterans show up and they don't have all their information, we'll still put in the initial paperwork with VA to get the ball rolling," Perkio said. "But at the same time, they'll be talking to our service officers so they'll know what documents they need to move their claim along."
Service officers will also encourage veterans to use the Legion's newly developed Claims Coach App, which features a directory of accredited American Legion service officers, a built-in organizer for appointments, documents and deadlines, and more.
"The Claims Coach App doesn't replace working with a service officer face to face," Perkio said, "but it gives them an idea of what to expect when they do. It goes into detail on the type of information needed for what we call the ‘nexus statement,' which links their service-connected illness to their current diagnosis, and is written by a medical professional on their behalf."
Veterans with honorable or general discharges are eligible for VA benefits. Those with dishonorable, undesirable or bad conduct discharges may consult with a Legion service officer about applying for discharge reviews and possible upgrades. VA representatives will also be on hand at the claims fair to help veterans enroll in the eBenefits  program online. Once enrolled, veterans can access their VA files and track the progress of their claims.